May 2014 – ANTARCTICA – Antarctic ice sheet is being threatened by an undersea volcano. Antarctica’s ice sheets may face a far more imminent threat than climate change: scientists have found a new volcano forming a mile under the ice, which is threatening a full eruption. The volcano appears to be a part of much larger system that is generating earthquakes and releasing heat into the ice above. Volcanic activity was discovered around 30 miles from Antarctica’s highest volcano, Mount Sidley, and although an eruption would be unlikely to breach the ice – the accompanying heat could have an effect on the landscape. Even a sub-glacial eruption would still be able to melt ice, creating huge amounts of water which could flow beneath the ice and towards the sea – hastening the flow of the overlying ice and potentially speed up the rate of ice sheet loss. “Numerous volcanoes exist in Marie Byrd Land, a highland region of West Antarctica,” said Amanda Lough, of Washington University in St Louis in the team’s paper on the subject, published in the Nature Geoscience journal.
“High heat flow through the crust in this region may influence the stability of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.” The Antarctic ice sheet is one of the Earth’s two polar ice caps and covers an area of 5.4 million square miles – around 98 percent of the continent, making it the largest single mass of ice on earth. Although scientists have suggested that sea ice around the continent is increasing, land ice appears to be decreasing and the area is very sensitive to global warming. Seismologists had set up two crossing lines of seismographs across Marie Byrd Land in 2010 – the first time such instruments able to withstand the cold temperatures year-round had been used. –Daily Mail